Blind Taste Test: Local Pumpkin Spice Lattes


By Camryn Ostrander | Writer

October 27, 2016

‘Tis the season for leaves, cozy sweaters, never-ending trails of the sweet aroma of candles, and infinite selections of pumpkin-flavored treats to choose from.

The favorite pumpkin spice pick of the year that everyone loves, young and old, is the sweet, deliciously-flavored Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL). This drink is the perfect blend of traditional fall spice flavors: cinnamon, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice, along with steamed milk, and espresso, topped with a swirl of whipped cream. As soon as the first of October comes around, all coffee shops across San Clemente, and across the world, pull out their pumpkin spice flavored beverages, and the pumpkin craze begins.

To kick off the pumpkin season, we thought we should tell you where to buy the best pumpkin spice lattes in San Clemente. The three most popular coffee shops in our beloved town include Starbucks, Zebra House, and Bear Coast. Starbucks Coffee remains easily the most popular coffee industry in country; everyone has at least a small place in their hearts for Starbucks. While it is an absolute favorite, we want to put our beloved Starbucks coffee to the test.

Local favorite Zebra House Coffee is a coffee shop on El Camino Real that features new artwork from local artists that update weekly, and hang proudly on their walls. The shop also includes plush furniture and a plug-in fireplace creating the effect of a feeling like home.

Last but not least, Bear Coast Coffee is the new up-and-coming coffee shop that is located directly across from the pier and is the perfect place to go get a mocha and take a stroll down the beach trail and watch the sunset off of the horizon.

All three of these iconic coffee shops have their pros and cons for coffee-drinking fans, but we wanted to find out where pumpkins spice lattes stand when put to the test! We purchased each shop’s best pumpkin spice lattes and held a blind taste test with three San Clemente High School Students.

Katelyn Ostrander (10)
Zack Gardner (12)
Malia Kho (11)

Our first tester will be senior Zack Gardner is currently a “PSL” virgin having had never put a pumpkin spice latte to his lips in his lifetime and is unfamiliar with most coffee shop products. Second tester is junior, Malia Kho. She enjoys experiencing new coffee shops and trying new flavors but is very familiar with Pumpkin Spiced lattes and enjoys each of these coffee shop selections. Lastly, sophomore Katelyn Ostrander has had many experiences with Starbucks and a few with Bear Coast Coffee but is pretty unfamiliar with Zebra House coffee however she is interested to discover more about this shop’s flavor.

Once seated we placed the cups in front of our subjects and asked to inform us on where the latte was from, what it tasted like, and to rate the latte from 1-10 (1 meaning the lowest, 10 meaning the highest).


Zack Gardner (12)


  • Describe the taste: “It seemed to have a stronger coffee (espresso) flavor than a pumpkin flavor.”
  • Rate from 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best) : 8

Malia Kho (11)

  • Describe the taste: “The latte is very sweet and creamy. It also seems like a really good blend of flavors.”
  • Rate from 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 8

Katelyn Ostrander (10)

  • Describe the taste: “You can really taste the pumpkin spice and the cinnamon flavors.”
  • Rate 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 7

Zebra House Coffeeimg_4107

Zack Gardner (12)

  • Describe the taste: “It seems to have a more pumpkin flavor than the other one.”
  • Rate 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 6.5

Malia Kho (11)

  • Describe the taste: “Wow. It is really watered down. Definitely not enough spice. Almost tastes a bit like tea.”
  • Rate 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 6

Katelyn Ostrander (10)

  • Describe the taste: “Really just tastes like gingerbread and creamer.”
  • Rate 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 4

Bear Coast Coffee

Zack Gardner (12)img_4102

  • Describe the taste: “I can taste cinnamon the most.”
  • Rate 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 5.5

Malia Kho (11)

  • Describe the taste: “The latte really lacks the pumpkin taste, there is just not enough in there.”
  • Rate 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 4

Katelyn Ostrander (10)

  • Describe the taste: “For some weird reason, to me this reminds me of sushi with soy sauce, but I’m not really sure why.” 
  • Rate 1-10 (1 = worst, 10 = best): 3

In conclusion, Starbucks takes the win in this taste test with Zebra House Coffee following in second and Bear Coast Coffee finishing in third. We hope that this article will help with any PSL needs, and if you would like to see if our outcomes are accurate, try your own blind taste test at home and see for yourself who would take home the gold in your pumpkin spice latte heart! Happy Fall!


2 Comments on Blind Taste Test: Local Pumpkin Spice Lattes

  1. This article is so cute! I love how it highlights both the fan-favorite coffee chain and local San Clemente business. Also, it’s good to know who made the best pumpkin spice! 🙂

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